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Effective Problem-Solving Techniques Anyone Can Learn

How to Become a Better Problem Solver

Problems are an inevitable part of life. Learning some proven problem-solving skills and techniques can help you work through difficulties without undue stress, anxiety and frustration. Here are some ways you can solve problems more effectively, along with some resources for taking your problem-solving skills to a whole other level.

Define the problem. The clearer you can define the challenge, the easier it will be to come up with a solution. Practice restating the problem from different perspectives and in different ways to see if this brings more clarity. In some challenging situations, it's easy to get overwhelmed with emotions and see only big barriers, obstacles or trouble. By repeatedly asking "why" on a problem, you can unearth the root cause. It can also help to frame the question in a more positive way by using "How" instead of "Why." For example, instead of asking "Why won't my tomatoes grow?" say "How can I make my tomatoes grow?"

Simplify things. It's human nature to make things more complicated than they need to be. Try to simplify your problem by generalizing it. Eliminate all the details and get back to the basics. See if you can identify a simple, obvious solution. If not, try deconstructing the problem by breaking it down into smaller chunks. If possible, see if you might be able to sub-divide the issue and start looking at these smaller components. This divide-and-conquer strategy can be helpful for many types of problems.

List multiple solutions. Try to come up with every possible solution and write it down even if it seems completely ridiculous at first. This is a great way to promote creativity, which can ultimately trigger a sound solution. If you take a "no idea is a bad idea" mindset, you can fuel creative brainstorming that may lead to a “eureka!” moment. Don't ridicule yourself for thinking of "dumb solutions" — it's often the crazy ideas that spark other more viable options.

Think laterally. If you seem stuck, try changing your approach by looking at things from a fresh perspective. Even if it feels ridiculous, a unique and fresh approach can often stimulate a fresh solution. You should also think about taking small breaks to give your mind a rest and allow you to approach things with a renewed energy and brand-new perspective.

Practice. People get better at solving problems by solving a lot of problems. When solving a particular issue, it can help to document your approaches. Jot down what worked and what didn't. Documenting your methods allows you to reflect on all the things you tried and determine how you might enhance your approach in the future.

Do some research. If you're serious about becoming a great problem-solver, read up on popular problem-solving techniques such as Root Cause Analysis , CATWOE and " 5 Whys " methods. While they don't fit every type of problem, these methods can be tweaked to work for all sorts of simple and complex issues you might run into in daily life. These techniques can also be especially helpful if you are trying to solve problems in a business environment, where you have to collaborate with multiple personalities.

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